Saturday, 10 February 2007

Richard Swinburne on Belief in God

What applies to beliefs generally applies to the belief that there is a God. Those who have that belief have a certain attitude towards the proposition or claim that there is a God, an attitude of setting it epistemologically above the alternative that there is no God, an attitude which has consequences for the believer’s behaviour. In the sense which I have been careful to distinguish, a man must act on his beliefs; he cannot have beliefs which could not in any circumstances make any conceivable difference to his conduct. One who really believes that there is a God will in some circumstances act differently from one who does not. If he seeks to tell the truth, he will say that there is a God. If he believes as well as that there is a God, that any God punishes the wicked, and if he seeks to avoid punishment, he will not be wicked. And so on. A man with the same purposes and the same other beliefs, would not do the same actions without the belief that there is a God. What are the consequences for action of a man’s belief that there is a God will depend crucially on which other beliefs he holds and what his purposes are. Thus suppose that he also believes that if there is a God, it is man’s duty to worship him; and he has the purpose of doing his duty, then he will worship. But he may believe that there is a God and yet not worship if he does not hold the other belief or does not have the purpose of doing his duty.

Whether a man believes that there is a God is something of which he is aware or of which he can become aware by asking himself whether or not he believes. However, a belief of this kind is of course one about which we may be rather more inclined to self-deception than about more mundane beliefs. We may want to believe, although really we do not, and so persuade ourselves that we do—or conversely, we may want not to believe, although really we do, and yet persuade ourselves that we do not. Clearly some vigilance is necessary here. Because of the possibility of a man deceiving himself about his religious beliefs, public criteria may sometimes show what are a man’s religious beliefs rather better than will his apparently honest avowal.

(Richard Swinburne, Faith and Reason [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981], 17-8)

Blogs of Note

Here are some of my favorite bloggers (in no particular order):

Dr John J. Ray (Dissecting Leftism)
Steve Rugg (JusTalkin)
Peg Kaplan (what if?)
Jeff Percifield (Beautiful Atrocities)
Ally Eskin (Who Moved My Truth?)
Dr Bill Keezer (Bill’s Comments)
Dr Bill Vallicella (Maverick Philosopher)
Michelle Malkin (Michelle Malkin)
Donald L. Luskin (The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid)
Norm Weatherby (Quantum Thought)
Kim du Toit (The Other Side)
Glenn Reynolds (InstaPundit)
Darby Shaw (The Kaos Theory)

If you think I’m missing a good blogger, let me know.


Here is the latest from the world of cycling. Some of the cyclists in the picture accompanying the story need to lose weight. It’s one thing to see a baseball player with a pot belly, but a cyclist?


Rudy Giuliani is making the right sounds about abortion. See here.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

“Florida’s Paper-Trail Vote” (letter, Feb. 6) asks why touch-screen voting can’t be made to work while banking with A.T.M.’s works fine. The main reason it can’t is that the bank keeps track of who made what transactions while the voting machine does not keep track of who cast which votes (because we vote by secret ballot).

Therefore, it is not possible for a voter, even with a paper record, to check if his or her votes were tallied correctly, online or otherwise.

The relevant purpose in banking is to accurately post each customer’s transactions to his or her account. The relevant purpose in voting is to count the total votes cast for each candidate without being able to identify who voted for whom.

The banking customers don’t care if the bank lies about its total assets and liabilities, but the voters do care if the voting machine lies about the total number of votes for each candidate!

It is these differences that make the A.T.M. method for voting a sham.

Alan E. Feldman
Woodbridge, N.J., Feb. 6, 2007

And When the Sky Was Opened

Yesterday evening, having done all the damage I could on the computer for the day, I watched the 11th episode of The Twilight Zone, which first aired on 11 December 1959. As usual, I enjoyed it. Some of the episodes I remember from my youth, even if vaguely; others I don’t remember at all. What made this particular episode interesting is that, when it was made, nobody knew for sure what effect space flight would have on human beings. The pilots in this episode disappeared one at a time, but there was no explanation as to why. According to the booklet that came with my DVD set, Rod Serling thought that the fact of disappearance was compelling enough, without offering up (or even hinting at) an explanation. I’m not sure it was; but maybe I would have if I had watched it in 1959, before space flight began.

A Year Ago


The Times

Kevin Stroup sent a link to this column about The New York Times.